There are some bands people just don’t get into, and I never quite understand why. Example required, example delivered: The Chap.
Origins lost, but it revolves around the song ‘I Am Oozing Emotion’, which is always catalogued in my brain as their breakout hit. But it wasn’t and I suspect that the furthest it broke out was to the edges of a forum thread where I found out about it. There are some songs I can obsess about in ways that verge on unhealthy, and that I will never skip, and always put on mixes and always sing on my way to the bathroom. I am Oozing Emotion is this, is this x 1000, its vaguely nonsensical lyrics about getting signed, its life affirming crash of distortion and grunting noises, its lack of fat and catchy melodies. It is perfect pop.
In 2008 Mega Breakfast, their sophomore record is released, to even less fanfare, from what I can gather. To be honest, it’s very hard to register interest in a band who appear to have none, especially when they inexplicably keep going. I think they all have day jobs and live in various bits of Europe, but their label keeps them signed up and they keep releasing stuff, so they must be successful on some level, right?
Anyway, Mega Breakfast reminds me of visiting people in London, feeling like a failure and just generally the worst time of my life. Back from Canada with no money, no job, no future, very few friends and not much in the way of a plan, I bounced between the few last places I knew I was welcome. I know I threw up on someone’s shoes at a gig and felt uncomfortable wondering if I was unwittingly witnessing an old friend suffer domestic abuse .
I remember waiting to meet someone in Fulham (or maybe Shoreditch?) and listening to ‘Fun & Interesting’ and ‘We Saw Them’ over and over, hiding in the music, letting the absurdity drag me out of this horrifically broken existence I’d crafted for myself. People like to exaggerate the impact of records and I have no doubt I’m doing just that right now, but I swear without The Chap I would be dead.
Because I like silly music, and I wrote an album called V under my ‘silly music’ (or ISM to those in the know) moniker Mamareeko X. Bench. Ostensibly about a man in a goat costume losing his mind in the hills above his town, it is actually undoubtedly the most autobiographical and true thing I have ever written. I poured my life into it for several months in 2007, with nothing else to do, and I still think it’s the most accomplished record I have ever produced. And yet, and yet.
And yet it is just frivolous nonsense and people treated it as such. And who can blame them? Songs about giants and Snickers wrappers and goats and wonkier times, at first blush it is a ridiculous and silly record, made for lols, made on a whim.
But it isn’t and I never really made much effort to explain this to anyone. And so, it stayed my secret, and occasionally since a few songs off it have escaped, and my wife knows ‘Animal Attraction’ and likes it, but that’s it.
What point was I making? The point was this: The Chap, like Super Furry Animals, make silly pop music that makes my heart fucking bleed. They make pop songs that reach beyond the usual dichotomy of happy/sad, that touch on a whole spectrum of emotions.
And like Mamareeko X. Bench, I wonder if The Chap are similarly playing to an audience who largely isn’t there. Do they have any idea that their music has affected anyone as deeply as it has me? Do they know that the gig they played to 14 people in Stourbridge made my Dad into a superfan, also?
My conclusion is that The Chap are a cool band amongst a bunch of cool acquaintances and they are playing to an audience that exists but is very insular, and doesn’t need to talk about itself on the internet, or expand beyond a few pubs in London and Paris and Berlin. There is no validation required nor offered, and they are happy for onlookers like myself to gawp in, but likewise are unmoved by the world ignoring them and letting them get on with doing what they do.
I need The Chap more than The Chap need me. At least, that’s what I hope.